Feature Film: January2019


Spider-Man 3 (2007)

Finishing what we started last year, I finally saw the final Raimi Spider-Man. We never saw it because a) baby and b) reviews. But especially the reviews + an interview with Sam Raimi I read shortly before the movie came out. He was worn down and aware of the film's flaws (which critics agreed with). And from what I remember being said, he's right. Too many characters. Too many subplots. Lost control of the moral ambiguities. It's not a great movie.

But I'm rather angry at the studio. The skeleton of a good movie is here. And given another year to rewrite and such, Gwen Stacey probably would have been cut from the film and the chaos of Too Many Villains could have been solved.

The biggest error though, in my opinion, is the romance. The first two films made a nice romantic arc. This film messed things up without the feet for proper repairs. It was poorly handled.

I was surprised to see Kevin Feige with a producer credit. I'm guessing he was learning a lot from these movies as they prepared to launch the MCU the coming year Seems to have worked out....

The Thing from Another World (1951)

This jumped to the top of Son Three's must-see list because of Must See Sci-Fi. By some unlikely coincidence, I had just pulled a bootleg of this film from a free pile only a couple weeks previous. So: easily done.

It's pretty great. I'll admit it kinda makes me want to watch John Carpeter's even more because I can see how this set-up could be even more straining than it is here.

Some of the things that surprised about this film are the naturalistic dialgue, the well drawn characters, and the not-stupid romance. Some disappointments that did not surprise include the military men being more moral than the journalists or the scientists. But that's only barely true. It really gave pretty much everybody a fair shake. Maybe this is Howard Hawks's influence, but it didn't taste like a B movie at all.

In other words, it's as good as people say.

(As a digestif, we then did movie #1 from the book, Le Voyage dans la Lune, which he had also been asking to see. The baby did not care for this one. No doggies.)

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

Well, it's true. We should all hope this film has a huge effect on the future path of animation (signs are good). I also hope it helps knock down some of the remaining walls re what studios think superhero movies can be. This movie is just built out of innovation. And it's crazy good to boot.

Part of its engine is tapping into what Spider-Man means. Having all those spider-folk in it helps triangulate why we as a people feel about this guy the way that we do. The (spoilers henceforth) funeral for Peter Parker was moving, and each encounter with MJ was as well. The first intro to the character was especially fun having just watched the Sam Raimi films. And Miles Morales is now an utter star in his own right. As is Spider-Gwen. We will certainly see more of these two.

Also, as a note, the voice casting was excellent. Sometimes having well known voices can distract (nope, not Liam Neeson; nope, not Nick Offerman---ends up it was Nick Cage) and that was an issue here, but Jake Johnson's voice was so perfect, I don't mind that I couldn't figure it out at the time. Also, is it just me or does John Mulvaney's performance sounds startlingly like Billy Crystal?

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Finally showing these films to our kids! It's overdue.

These films are so beautifully made that I can see any moment from any film and immediately be drawn in. The pleasure is instantaneous.

Having a two-year-old throwing chunks of Play-Doh in my face, however, does get in the way of really immersing oneself however.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

I haven't read the books since my first time, the summer before movie one was released. At the time, The Two Towers was my favorite. Which meant, naturally, this movie was my least favorite (although certainly still favorite). Largely because I loved the Ents and what makes them entish is exactly was cinema is bad at. So it was hardly a surprise.

The film does sport Helm's Deep, of course, largely considered one of film's great battles. And it introduced me to Miranda Otto. I've never liked her as much as I like her in these films, but I like her so much in these films. So much

I'm endlessly impressed by these adaptations. And the effects have aged well, too. I suppose Gollum is "less real" than he would be today, but he looks terrific. Acting plays a big part in that (speaking of both Serkis and the animators), but regardless: these films are aging better than many of their contemporaries.

It's also funny, in retrospect, that this movie came out the same year as Spider-Man. Two films that had to solve the split-personality-arguing-with-itself problem. If that was the manifestation of our id in 2002, what are we now?

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Watching two of these in one sitting is intense. That's a loooootttta movie. A whole lotta movie. But it's quality movie.

It really is one of the great tales. It's no wonder an entire genre of fiction has seeded in its trail. It is complex and whole and moving and troubling.

Who does one wish to be? I suppose Aragorn is the most heroish of the heroes, but it is Frodo's success that matters most. Yet the troubles that accompany Frodo's heroism could not be more clear. Sam perhaps has the happiest ending.

My emotions and my body are tired. I am a sadder and a wiser man.

Imposter (2012)

I am only aware of this film because of Every Frame a Painting, this episode of which I've seen several times. So although it's been circa seven months since I last saw it, it's still in my noggin and my experience is a bit polluted.

Or, in other words, I was a bit too educated to come into this completely manipulatable. I recommend following Tony's advice and not doing so much as learning the genre before watching this film. Because the less you know, the more honestly you can experience what the people in this movie experience.

Which is a special variety of hell.

What is not much of a spoiler is that this film is about an imposter. A con man. That's not a secret. It's in the title. What may be a spoiler is that he may well con you too, even though you know this about it.

Watch it then watch Tony then tell me what you think.

An Honest Liar (2014)

'Tis this month's film group film. It's pretty good---all about The Amazing Randi---his time as a magician and escape artist, to his time as a debunker and icon. Which is all pretty great.

But the filmmakers lucked out. Because during the making of the documentary, his lifepartner was arrested on charges of twenty-five years of identity theft. And so the film suddenly opened up additional layers and asked new questions which otherwise would have gone uncovered, unasked. (It's worth noting that, methinks, had I not just watched Imposter earlier that day, my reaction would have been closer to what the filmmaker's wanted.)

With a bit of luck, I'll get around to watching this again with the subject's commentary.

An Honest Liar (2014)

Watched it again with Randi's commentary. Largely it repeated what is in the film (and thus we learn that he has honed some stories to his satisfaction), but it did include a couple more fun stories about Project Alpha and ol' Don Lane.

I most appreciated the additional info as to how and when he decided to allow all the interview footage to be included, although I would have liked much more storytelling about those months in his life.

But you take what you get, I guess.

The Great Dictator (1940)

When I told my kids Charlie Chaplin made a film making fun of Hitler, they insisted---INSISTED---on seeing it. And so we have. They didn't love it quite as much as their favorites of the silents, but they laughed a lot. Me, this time, again, I was terribly moved by his speech. And so much of the preceding minutes seemed utterly necessary in a Trump world. (Although I'm not sure he has the imagination to ballet the Earth; perhaps we can save that scene for Putin.)

Incidentally, you should see if your library is connected with Kanopy. It's a marvelous service and loaded with classic films. This is far from the first I've watched on their service, and I imagine many more will follow.

One Week (1920) / The Boat (1921)

Normally I do not list shorts on these lists, but it's rumored Keaton intended to combine these films into a single feature. So here they are.

(Personally, I doubt it. But it's imaginable.)

The couple in both films is Buster Keaton and Sybil Seely. She is utterly wonderful in the first film and doesn't get nearly enough to do in the second. But the second is just generally inferior. There are some excellent gags (the uphill/downhill one is amazing), but it's just not as good. And the constant rocking of the boat seems like it might make a body seasick on a bigger screen.

The first is the first Keaton-starring short released and if you have not seen it, you owe it to yourself. Our heros are newly wed and you feel it in every look and chaste kiss. They receive a prefab house as a wedding gift and ... it does not quite work out. Includes an early draft of Keaton's falling-house gag.

One more word about the second---just as I asked Lady Steed what the name of the boat was all about, it paid off in a nice little gag. But that gag was just set-up for an even better gag to end the film. A gag made possible by the lack (the lack!) of an intertitle.

Buster Keaton, yall.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

I'm delighted to say it holds up to a second viewing.

We borrowed the screener from a friend because Lady Steed hadn't seen it yet and, well, we didn't mind.

Here's something interesting. I noticed it with Black Panther too. I am exceedingly hiphop/rap/trap/etc ignorant, but it works so well for me in film. I can't really go back and enjoy it after the fact, however. My pleasure seems to be moment significant.

If you're wondering, I haven't decided if I want to work on that or not.

Shaolin Soccer (2001)

This was the latest choice from the high school's film club, and I'm so glad. I was afraid aver my last viewing that the cg had aged enough that the movie wouldn't appeal to the youths. I was so wrong.

It just appeared on Netflix, and that version is not the same as what was released stateside over fifteen yeras ago. New subtitles, some changes to the translation (now only the coach of Team Evil says "cripple"; it's the guys mom having a baby, not his wife), and I think there are changes to the sound design and music too, but I would have to watch them side-by-side to be sure.

Something I hadn't really thought about before: the "illogic" of game scenes are following rules set by Buster Keaton. And that's why it works, illogic inclusive.

Sylvio (2017)

Put this on background, my last day of the semester. The seniors who watched it agree with my assessment that it can work pedagogically as I hope it will next semester.

I'll let you know.

They did say I'll have to warn the sophomores what I'm getting them into. I may.

(Previous viewing.)

Cold Comfort Farm (1995)

After the Relief Society discussed Cold Comfort Farm at book group, I'm told they watched the movie. And preferred it. To which I am appalled. The book is so, so good.

I have now rewatched the film myself. And suck it, sisters: it's not as good. It's just not.

It is pretty good. It has a hard time finding momentum, and there's some fan service here and there, but it is good. The Seth-becoming-a-movie-star scene was hilarious, and I can see how it's a movie that would improve on rewatching.

Still. Have you read the book?

(Also: I know she's twenty-two in the film, but Kate Beckinsdale looks So Young! I can barely recognize her.)

Hearts Beat Loud (2018)

It's hard to say what makes a movie click. This has a great cast, fine writing, good music. I was surprised at the director's resume because this feels a bit more like a calling card than an established work and it's hard to say why. Over 90% on Rotten Tomatoes and I'm giving it a thumbs-up too. But it's not in the awards conversation this year and it barely showed up in theater.

Why? What is that ineffable quality of ... excellence? timeliness? neededness? that makes one film great?

I'm not sure I've seen a bildungsroman before that is at least as much about the parent growing up as the kid. Really, it's the parent who hits the traditional coming-of-age notes, with the kid's growing-up a bit more subtle and hidden.

Interesting film. It has Ted Danson in it. It's not a mistake.

But I don't know that you or I will remember it come next year.

True Grit (2010)

Having just listened to the audio book, I have to believe that Hailee Steinfeld spent a lot of time with Donna Tartt's reading because they seem very, very similar to me.

My viewing this time began during dinner and was interrupted by putting the baby to bed, but I feel I can share my opinion well enough all the same. First: this is overall a pretty great movie. I like it. But it is a bit frustrating to watch not long after experiencing the book as it just moves too fast and leaves to much out. Standard book-to-movie complaints. I don't feel a need to explicate further.

The man in the bear suit they bump into---he's pretty much the same trapper who's in the stagecoach at the end of Buster Scruggs, don't you think?

Lotta characters with voices not terribly easy to understand. All the more wisdom to no contractions, I suppose. Although Brolin's voice reminded me a bit too much of Dax Shepard in Idiocracy....

The fever-dream final ride still doesn't really work for me. I seem to be alone on this. But that's okay. I'm often out of line with popular opinion on Coen-related poplar opinion. I'm used to it.


Previous films watched

jan feb mar apr may jun jul aug sep oct nov dec







Books are an excellent source of protein


011) Kindred by Octavia E. Butler, finished January 22

Isn't it great when a lauded book lives up to its reputation? Kindred does.

If you haven't heard about it, Kindred is the story of a 1976 woman who periodically finds herself in 1819 on the plantation of an ancestor. That is, of a white man who would rape a formerly free black woman and whose progeny would lead to our protagonist. But in the meantime, she is stuck in antebellum Maryland and must live, essentially, as a slave. Because when she lives any other way, the weight her boldness is flung back at her.

The book is a simple read in the sense that a kid could read it and understand the words. But it is an enormously complicated read because nothing is easily explained or understood.

Butler chooses not to explain the hows of the novel's time travel: it just is. And this quiet, unfathomable mystery is a fine metaphor for all that is unspoken and unfathomable about man's cruelty to man. It's easy to say I would be different when you stand in 2019. Might not be so easy while standing in the past. Standing and standing. Unknowing if you are to return.
five months


012) Huck by Mark Millar et al., finished January 24

Millar has a big reputation. And not just because he writes good comics. No, he has the kind of reputations people in print media can only get by having their work made into a/v media. And he has. Kick-Ass, Kingsmen---not to mention his big influence on some of the Marvel movies.

Because of the first two, I've always kind of assumed he was an ultraviolence kind of guy and never sought him out. This book more came to me. But although it has a nice fight scene or two for the final act, it's largely a sweet story about a good samaritan with superpowers and a quiet, reserved humility. I was surprised. And delighted. It's a lovely book. Such a nice addition to our legions of superheros.

(Note: I have read one other Millar book, Red Son, though I didn't know who he was at the time.)
a week or two or three or maybe a month---can't remember when I started but I read most of it today


013) Marketing Precedes the Miracle by Calvin Grondahl, finished January 30

I'm preparing for the next episode of Face in Hat for which I am rereading this article and, for the first time, actually reading through this book of cartoons.

I've never found Grondahl or Pat Bagley all that funny, but I suspect a lot of it is timing. This collection was released in 1987 when, I assume, it was more transgressive and therefore had a larger potential payout. I've always thought of Grondahl's Mormon cartoons as transgressive for the sake of being transgressive but they don't really read that way to me now. Some of them are nosethumbery, but others range from the tame, to fair, to lazy (not many of the latter, but a couple are stinkers worthy of now-era Andy Capp). And they're not all about current events (or "current" events) such as feminism and historical secrecy. However, in some ways, I might like that better. The fact is, 1987 just isn't long enough ago for this book to feel like a fun little time capsule ala Latter-day Laughs.

That said, I still find the thesis of the above article compelling. Someone has to talk first, and the jester is a fine choice.


014) Uncle Scrooge:The Seven Cities Of Gold by Carl Barks, finished January 31

Good but not as solid as the last collection.

I enjoyed the essays again, but the one on the one-pagers was weak.

On the bright side, there were some nice extras in the back, revealing Barks's process. So thumbs-up there.

In other news, while typing this (why this writeup sucks), the boys and I watched the first episode of the new DuckTales. Given the props it received upon release, I'm assuming it gets better. Because this wasn't impressive. Only showed the younger characters, turned the Beagle Boys into ripoffs of the Powerpuff Girls' rogues gallery, and just did not gel. I'm hoping for better, moving forward. The books deserve it.
two or three weeks


015) When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, finished January 31

This is a phenomenal book. Kalanthi wrote it as he was dying, and it is unquestionably a book about death, but it's a book about death by a man who, though young, had made life and death and meaning his life's pursuit. So we follow him through medical school and into neurosurgery and through marriage into fatherhood. It's well written. We'll miss not hearing more from him.

And the concluding paragraph knocked me down. It's an astonishing thing. With his wife's spilogue taking us out? Lovely and moving.

A book to read while dying. And we are all dying. Even if we, ourselves, have not yet been forced to recognise that fact.

(Slip the intro. If you want to read it afterwards, that will be fine.)
under a week



Books, books, the magical fruit


006) SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman, finished January 8*

Sony's put out the final script for Spider-Verse, one presumes as part of its awards-push. And so I read it.

It's so good, guys. Reliving it on the page was nearly as emotional as watching it on screen. It's a fine piece of writing. I wish I knew more about the process, as I doubt it was just assign writers who show up at studio with original completed unchanging script. But it's smart and well written and seems more manageable on paper. A lot of creativity followed this step, that's for sure. But this in and of itself is good stuff.
two days


007) Latter-day Laughs by Stan and Elly Schoenfeld, finished January 16

This was originally published in 1963. Mine's a seventh printing, 1970. And it belies the claims that Pat Bagley and Cal Grondahl showed up like Venus in the foam and made a new world. That's a fine article, don't get me wrong, but it overstates the miracle of their arrival.

These Schoenfeld cartoons are softer, sure, but they're doing the same thing. It's even the goal (or, more likely, preemptive excuse) as stated on the copyright page:
Latter-day Saints are a happy people, ad good humor has always been enjoyed as a part of our lives. Many of our best loved Church leaders have used bits of humor to encourage us or to effectively illustrate a point.

As Matthew Cowley said on one occasion: "In my life, the people who have done me the most good and who have done more to inspire goodness in me have been those who have had a sense of humor rather than those who have depressed me."

By being able to smile at our own mistakes and at some of the problems experienced by us all, we can maintain a healthy outlook on our work and association together in the Church.
Incidentally, here's where the Schoenfelds lived, via Google Street View:

My favorite thing about this book, however, is its dated elements, which are legion. We no longer have building funds, and there are multiple jokes about these. And it's general midcentury Americana is charming and gone gone gone.

I'm glad to have found this book. If you're a Mormon-comics scholar, you should have one.
not much more than moments


008) All We Ever Wanted: Stories of a Better World edited by Miner, Palicki, Chin-Tanner; finished January 19

A recent issue of Wired included some short fiction intended to imagine the future of work.The stories were high-concept and interesting in terms of their ideas, but with one exception, they weren't very good. The one that was good takes place in a universe already invented in novels---which gets to why the others were lesser. Trying to make a short-short carry ideas better weighted for a novel is a surefire path to bad fiction.

The same thing often happens in comics anthologies. I bought this collection on Kickstarter because I'm pro-utopian fiction and would like to see more positive futures explored. I have lucked out on Kickstarter before, but plenty of this worlds' comics anthologies are more like that Wired issue: underbaked ideas painted in the colors of fiction.

All We Ever Wanted is a particularly egregious example of that kind of bad anthology. It's largely a mess of hippie propaganda without much story to go along. Even the ones that start promising often self-destruct in search of a moral. Three of the best stories appear near the end. In the spirit of positivity, I'll talk about them.

Good Time (words: Vasilis Pozios | Pictures: Zakk Saam)
One of the secrets to getting across an idea in the story is to let the story lead. And you let the story lead by letting the characters lead. Let them be themselves. Many of the AWEW stories have characters saying things it makes no sense for them to say just so we the audience can be persuaded to think the thought the authors want us to think. This story avoids that trap by having the only explanations given to a character who genuinely needs them.

The story begins in prison. A man who has lost thirty years of his life to the crime he committed. He is aging. He is regretful. His sins have been burned away.

And then he awakes. In one half hour, he has lived a virtual sentence of thiry years. Those years will always be with him---the memories, the suffering, the regret, the self-discovery. But instead: he has paid for his sins and then is reunited with his wife and daughter as a new and better man. It's high-concept; it's six pages, it's honest and true. It's good comics not because of its utopian ideas but because of its stellar storytelling.
Day at the Park (words: Eliot Rahal | pictures: Jason Copland)
This one also wins by being simple. A girl and a robot fly a kite together. No attempt to squeeze in a manifesto. Just a spot of joy.
Two Left Feet (words: Eric Palicki | pictures: Eryk Donovan)
Although the landing stumbles a bit (though I do think it is the correct landing), this is one of the most original superhero concepts I've seen in some time. I would love to see this expanded. I'm not sure what makes it utopian other than lesbians (many of the stories seem to think that a same-sex couple is sufficient to qualify a work as utopian), but it's hella cool.


009) Daytripper by Fábio Moon & Gabriel Bá, finished January 19

I suppose I saw this on some best-of list, but the memory is lost. Anyway, the library got it for me and I have read it. And I am glad I did.

Here's the conceit: each chapter is about Brás and in each chapter he dies. perhaps in his thirties, perhaps in his childhood. The final two chapters disrupt this pattern a bit, but they remain true to the greater shape of the novel.

Visiting Brás at these different milieus of death means seeing how one life matters as seen at different angles. Sort of like multiple versions of It's a Wonderful Life.

While I didn't land as ecstatically as some of the blurbs (including from such luminaries as Terry Moore, Jeff Smith, Paul Pope, and Craig Thompson), I can recommend this book without hesitation. Were I a poster guy, I might put the letter from the final chapter on a poster. It's a thing of beauty.



010) Evolving Faith: Wanderings of a Mormon Biologist by Steven L. Peck, finished January 20

Blair sent me a copy of this before it came out, with the hopes I would review it for Motley Vision, speaking more of its literary merits than feeling obliged to debate its science and philosophy. I happily agreed.

The book came out in October 2015.

AMV's blog shut down two years later.

And only today am I finishing the book.

(Sorry, Blair.)

My intention was to read it quickly, followed by Steve's short-story collection, which I had recently purchased, then write about both together. (Cue laughter.)

The thing that went wrong is that I just do not often read nonfiction quickly. I don't. I take my time. So Evolving Faith was consumed in bursts. Sometimes I was in over my head, sometimes not. I was always impressed and always walked away with things to talk about and share. Sometimes it affected Important Stuff I was writing or thinking (example). It was always provocative and wise, and Brother Peck is a kindly guide. As soon as I finished, I handed it over to the Big O who intends to follow a path in the sciences something along the lines of Professor Peck---only almost certainly without the professor part. I hope he reads it. In the essay-writing group I'm starting in our ward, I've already slotted on of the essays from this book.

All this and good writing too.

In other words, it gave me everything Blair hoped I would find. I'm just a little let sharing the good word.
over three years



The New Irreantum


Disclaimer: Irreantum is the literary journal sponsored by the Association for Mormon Letters of which I am currently president. I am also slated to edit the third issue of this reboot.


Irreantum 16.1 was released earlier this week and I have been making it last. I read the poems first, then the essays. All of which ranged from good to very good. I have saved the short stories for last. I have now read one of them, "Next of Kin" by Karen Rosenbaum, and I must write about it.

Karen's work is beautifully written, always. And she has this incomparable grasp of how long and close relationships work. This story concerns marriages and siblings, relationships within and across generations; and follows them over decades. This is the sort of thing one only expects to see in a novel. But Karen does it in 4,734 words.

This is not the critic lauding a short story because it feels like a novel and novels are the superior artform. They are distinct. They do different things. Karen is a master of the short story and nothing about "Next of Kin" is unlike an excellent short story. It's just that it's encroaching on the subject matter of great novels---and making us wonder why novels get all the credit.

Karen's work is often about relationships and moments that are definitional. This one deals with mortality over three different decades (the 1980, the 2000s, and the 2010s) and finds moments that are seamless within their decades and reflective over the decades.

Karen is one of my writing heroes, in part because of the role she has played in my own life. She was the first editor who really worked with me on a work of fiction (and arguably the last---the age of editors is ending). Then I moved into her ward. And she's wonderful, she really is.

It's nice to know the genius she shows of humanity and her love for humanity is reflected in her person.

If you don't know Karen, you can at least know her work. Read "Next of Kin."


Starting the year off right. With itty-bitty books.


001) Thornhill by Pam Smy, finished January 2

What if I told you you could read an entire 500-page gothic novel in about an hour? And that it was good? Would you say yes?

I certainly hope so.

Thornhill has two parallel narratives: diary entries from 1982 and full-spread images from 2017. How these stories will come together is not clear for sometime. And when it finally does, the deliberate references to Jane Eyre, Secret Garden, and Rebecca all feel like red herrings. This tale is much more akin to Wurthering Heights. And how.

Sure, this is a "YA novel" with teenaged protagonists, blah blah blah. But I found it utterly compelling. I refused to let anything break its spell and read it in one go. I imagine you will too.

Smy did a fine job planning this---each page that has handlettered text passing across the spine is scheduled to appear in the middle of a signature. I wish more comics artists planned so well. I hate it when stuff gets lost, swallowed by the spine. Not here! We're in the hands of a generous professional.

i dunno maybe an hour


002) How to Be Happy by Eleanor Davis, finished January 3

I've read at least two (I think three) of these stories before in Best American Comics. They are actually better surrounded by their compatriots. The title is perfect for the collection---each story, with the light of How to be Happy upon it, seems to tell us truths about our emotional lives. Some are essentially unchanged by the light, but some reveal facets that otherwise may have remained hidden.

Davis is a challenging artist. I just read another of her books last month, and this too is good at asking questions while resisting clear answers. These are stories that take a long time to digest. Cud them up all you like, they will still savor.

one day


003) Arcadia by Tom Stoppard, finished Janaury 4

I first paid attention to this play at an AP Lit training I attended. The instructor teaches the play to her students and recommended it because of all the math and science as a way to get kids who prefer those subjects to invest deeper into its literature. Plus: Tom Stoppard.

I bought a copy two and a half years ago then almost immediately came across a free copy in a more convenient shape. I'm finally reading it now because a friend recommended the Shotgun's production out now and because she also recommended reading it first. Which was probably good advice, although I feel like my personal interests and the shape of common knowledge has developed such over the last twenty-five years that much of the heavy lifting in this play I have already done (ask me about heat death; I dare you).

Anyway, it does, of course, being Stoppard, do interesting things with space and time and the stage. I don't know that *I* want to teach this play, personally, but I would like to see it and seeing it could well change my mind. I usually read plays in class, but I think I would have to send this one home.

More than the math and science, however, the play takes its truest aim at history, with fun little shots off at class and culture and artists and poets and fads and etc etc. It's got a lot going on.
one day


004) Third Wheel: Peculiar Stories of Mormon Women in Love by Melissa Leilani Larson, finished January 6

I've long since first read "Little Happy Secrets" which I published lo these many years ago. "Pilot Program" I knew about but had never read. "Little Happy Secrets" didn't feel quite as revolutionary as it did all those years ago, but it is still excellent. "Pilot Program" kept pushing deeper and deeper, but in unexpected (read: plain and realistic) ways. The plays make what feels like a necessary pairing, each directing its energy toward LDS sexual mores though at quite different angles.

Other notes:

Each play relies on a minimum of characters and setting.

Each play uses a single narrator welcoming us into her inner life.

Even with that onrunning soliloquy gluing the scenes together, the moments we see into characters most deeply are in the liminal, silent moments of conversation. Each play includes, as part of its production notes, this: "Sometimes silence is everything."

Each play ends on an unfinished, unsettled note that emphasizes the lived reality of these characters' lives.

I haven't seen either produced, but the intimacy of every moment of each play demands skilled actors, to be sure. Although, perhaps in contradiction, I also feel these plays would work quite well as impromptu readers theater among friends.

My favorite aspect of both plays is how, by the end, the characters' pain is my own, and I feel they are friends of mine and that I must be there for them. This sort of empathy may be what art is for. I pray we take it with us back into our relationships with the living.
a day for one play, a day of none, a day of one play


005) Fox 8 by George Saunders, finished January 6

This is, I believe, only the second thing by George Saunders I've read (outside a couple on-writing things I've bumped into online). The other was a short story in The New Yorker which I liked and was surprised by. Surprised because Saunders is A BIG DEAL and usually that means, in my experience, Rothlike or Updikelike or something along those lines. But he was full of fun. Completely changed my level of attraction to his BIG DEAL novel. I now would like to read it. But this slim volume cut in line.

It's just a short story---small pages and big type and illustrations are what turn it into a book---originally published digitally only but, I assume, released now on paper to capitalize on the success of the BIG DEAL novel. And why not.

It's a letter from a Yuman-speaking fox to the Yumans. It's fun and larky for quite a while until a tragedy sends the fox's life swinging in a new direction. To get his life back on track, he needs some answers. That's it. That's the conceit.

The book has wit and our narrator's charming. His foxish mispellings have a delightful logic one step up from most misspelled fiction. In all, a fine read.
before and after a birthday party

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _


final booky posts of
2007 = 2008 = 2009 = 2010 = 2011 = 2012
2013 = 2014 = 2015 = 2016 = 2017 = 2018

* the most recent post in this series *


Some unfinished books to begin the year


I've been giving myself permission not to finish books with regularity this year, from high art to low art. I wanted to plug these three books in particular though because I did enjoy them and because they have so much in common.

The first is essays on great animated films, the second on great science-fiction films, the third science fiction and fantasy fiction that holds up to rereading. With all three books I largely focussed on the movies/books I had already consumed. Book one gave me intelligent discourse. Book two's emphasis was more on Fun Facts which, of course, I also enjoyed. Book three was largely one woman's personal responses. And her responses made me continue this ongoing discussion I have with myself as to whether I should be a bigger rereader myself. Unlike Jo Walton, however, I do not read 500+ books a year. If I did, I think rereading would be much easier to fit in. I do agree with her that you haven't really read a book (or seen a movie, for that matter) until you have read it twice. I feel that lack a lot.

Book two was a big hit with my youngest son who has turned it into a personal must-watch list; I'm considering buying him a copy after I return these to the library.

In short, if you are interested in these types of movies/books, these are wonderful volumes to browse. If you are an expert in your own right, their editorial decisions will be delightful to rail against. Consider consider consider.




Since thmazing.com is down (and at risk of having to be bombed into oblivion as part of its salvation), I thought I would reproduce its list of publication credits here. It's the only clean list I have.


•Byuck (Strange Violin Editions 2012) *buy*

•Perky Erect Nipples (Antemoff Ebookery 2015) *buy*

Short stories
•Armageddon, Burning, And, Hell (The Looking Glass 1994)
•Afterlife (Quantum Muse March 2006) *read*
•The Widower (Dialogue Paperless June 2007, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought Summer 2009) *read* *read offsite*
•The Oracle (Nossa Morte February 2008) *read*
•Happy St. Patrick's Day (Arkham Tales May 2009) *read*
•Blood-Red Fruit (with Danny Nelson, The Fob Bible 2009) *read* *buy*
•How Long Till Two Times (The Fob Bible 2009) *read* *buy*
•Along with the Rainbow (The Fob Bible 2009) *buy*
•Solomon's Reprise (The Fob Bible 2009) *buy*
•Them Bones Them Bones Gonna—Walk Around (The Fob Bible 2009) *buy*
•Ezra's Inbox (The Fob Bible 2009) *buy*
•The Avon Lady (Pandora's Nightmare 2010; Faed 2015) *read* *buy*
•17 Facts About Angels (Irreantum Fall/Winter 2010) *read* *buy*
•Davey Dow and Lala (Wilderness Interface Zone October 2011) *read*
•The Legend of Boitown (Scars.tv May 2012; Children, Churches and Daddies August 2012; the Mission (issues) May–August 2012; After the Apocalypse: Prose Edition February 2013) *read offsite* *buy*
•Lovely, Fearful Symmetry (Surreal Grotesque Magazine June 2012) *read offsite*
•Swallowing Bones (Windmills 2012 Ninth Edition) *buy*
•Stars Were Gleaming (Sing We Now of Christmas 2012) *buy*
•Maurine Whipple, age 16, takes a train north (Everyday Mormon Writer October 2012) *read*
•The Dancing Monkeys of Blackpool (Windmills 2012 Tenth Edition) *buy*
•Bearing Testimonies of Death (Lowly Seraphim 2013) *read offsite*
•Laurel Wistian and the Adventure of the Dangerous Mice of Dr. Mortimus Alexander Fitzbottom, PhD, AlcD (Midnight Movie Creature Feature 2 March 2013) *buy* *read offsite*
•Do Not Open Until Christmas (Carol of the Tales and Other Nightly Noels 2013) *buy*
•Out for Santa (When Red Snow Melts 2013) *buy*
•The Great Mormon Novel of the 21st Century (Antemoff Ebookery 2013) *buy*
•Yes, Snow White Ate the Apple. It Was a Suicide. (MicroHorror January 2014) *read offsite*
•Then, at 2:30. . . . (365 Tomorrows February 2014) *read offsite*
•A Laurel's First-Night Fantasies (longlisted in Mormon Lit Blitz 2014, Dialogue Summer 2016)
•All Right, Have It Your Way – You Heard a Seal Bark (365 Tomorrows January 2015) *read offsite*
•An Excerpt from But Very Little Meat (Modern Mormon Men February 2015) *read offsite*
•The Naked Woman (Pulp Literature Spring 2015) *buy*
•Angry Sunbeam (Mormon Lit Blitz May 2015) *read*
•The Swimming Hole (Redneck Eldritch April 2016) *preview* *buy*
Duties of a Deacon (Dialogue Fall 2017)
Stanl33's Silver Spaceship (longlisted in Mormon Lit Blitz 2018)
The Prophetess of Mars -or- the Modern Prometheia (forthcoming in Press Forward, Saints)

•After Chadwick (Antemoff Ebookery 2015) *buy*

•Chores (From the Asylum June 2007)
•Morning Walk, Spring 2009 (Wilderness Interface Zone March 2009)
•Maher-shalal-hash-baz (The Fob Bible 2009) *read* *buy*
•Gomer (The Fob Bible 2009) *buy*
•My Latest Trip to the Berkeley Botanical Gardens (Wilderness Interface Zone February 2013)
•Rifflection: “To His Mistress Going to Bed” by John Donne (Psaltery & Lyre May 2013) *read offsite*
•Completely Static Account (3by3by3 June 2013)  *read offsite*
•Goal Stunning Goal (3by3by3 June 2013) *read offsite*
•God (Psaltery & Lyre July 2013) *read offsite*
•A Hymn for Mother's Day in Long Meter (first accepted to be published as part of "Our Mother Who Art in Heaven" in A Mantle of Stars December 2013; first published on A Mother Here) *read offsite* *buy*
•Sponsored Funeral (Quantum Fairy Tales May 2013)*read offsite*
•Amtrak to SAC (Psaltery & Lyre July 2013) *read offsite*
•Being a High-School Teacher Is a Great Disguise (Psaltery & Lyre August 2013) *read offsite*
•Accidentally Deleted (Quantum Fairy Tales October 2013) *read offsite*
•Overall Free (無μ November 2013) *read offsite*
•Rifflection on the Climax of “The Monkey’s Paw” (Passages of Pain, Lyrics of Loss February 2014) *buy*
•In Memoriam: B (Passages of Pain, Lyrics of Loss February 2014) *buy*
•The Young Amateur Imagines the Editor’s Pen, ca 1997 (Passages of Pain, Lyrics of Loss February 2014) *buy*
•Enough Is (The Poet's Haven March 2014) *read offsite*
•Solstice (Boston Literary Magazine March 2014) *read offsite*
•The Fiberglass Giraffe in Davis, California (Epigraph Magazine April 2014) *read offsite*
•Some seduction this— (Psaltery & Lyre July 2014, After Chadwick 2015) *read offsite* *buy*
•Jesus Fishing the Styx (Psaltery & Lyre August 2014, After Chadwick 2015) *read offsite* *buy*
•After Party (Psaltery & Lyre October 2014, After Chadwick 2015) *read offsite* *buy*
•Creator (Psaltery & Lyre November 2014, After Chadwick 2015) *read offsite* *buy*
•If I had a Book of Mormon Broadway show (LDS.net Poetry Contest Finalist February 2015) *read offsite*
•Vulnerability / Intimacy (Quatrain.Fish 2015, After Chadwick 2015) *read offsite* *buy*
•Sheep (have poetry) (After Chadwick 2015, forthcoming in Wilderness Interface Zone) *buy*
•Appreciation to the first poet (After Chadwick 2015, forthcoming in Wilderness Interface Zone) *buy*
•Doline (Califragile September 2017) *read offsite*
•El Niño (Califragile September 2017) *read offsite*
•If Joseph Smith Had Been Born in California (Dialogue Fall 2017)
•Domestiku (Dialogue Fall 2017)
•Sonnet—for Solstice (Dialogue Fall 2017)
•Working Theory (American Journal of Poetry January 2018) *read offsite*
•Sixth Mass Extinction Event (Califragile May 2018) *read offsite*
Joseph and Emma Grow Old Together (Mormon Lit Blitz 2018) *read offsite*
Girls Gone Wild (Queen Mob's Tea House August 2018) *read offsite*
Sex with Tina (Queen Mob's Tea House August 2018) *read offsite*
•Sweater (forthcoming in Dialogue)
•New and Everlasting (forthcoming in Dialogue)
•Reading May Swenson (forthcoming in Inscape)

•Mormons by the Bay (SF Weekly Dec. 12–18, 2012) *read*
•Inappropriate Book Illustrations Redeemed through the Glory of Dance (Red Fez February 2014) *read offsite
•Served: A Missionary Comics Anthology (editor 2018)

Essays and Criticism &c.
•Living Literature (flashquake Spring 2007) *read*
•Saturday's Werewolf: Vestiges of the Premortal Romance in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Novels (Reading Until Dark April 2009) *read offsite*
•Saturday’s Werewolves: The Doctrine that Makes Stephenie Meyer’s Lycanthropes Golden Investigators (Sunstone Magazine December 2009) *read offsite*
•How to Get Over It (The Fob Bible 2009) *buy*
•Communion with the Small (Wilderness Interface Zone July 2009) *read offsite*
•The Ambiguity of Excellence: Kazu Kabushi’s Daisy Kutter (Fantasy Magazine December 2009) *read offsite*
•Foreword (foreword to Cetera Desunt by Danny Nelson 2010) *buy*
•Space Opera 101: Jake Parker’s Missile Mouse (Fantasy Magazine March 2010) *read offsite*
•Annie & Kah Leong Poon (Mormon Artist April 2010) *read offsite*
•How to Become a Mormon-Comics Snob in Five Easy Steps (Sunstone Magazine September 2010) *read*
•Why Church Artists Owe Ric Estrada a Thank-You Card (Sunstone Magazine September 2010) *read*
•Pow! Zot! Amen!: Mormon Theology in Michael Allred's Madman (with Stephen Carter, Sunstone Magazine September 2010) *read*
•Ain't No Such Thing: Moving Beyond the First Series of The Lonely Polygamist Reviews (Irreantum Fall/Winter 2010) *buy*
•Orson Scott Card (Mormon Artist December 2010/January 2011) *read offsite*
•Monsters and Mormons and the Deseret Book (Monsters & Mormons 2011) *buy*
•The Bold Spirit of Bryan Mark Taylor (introduction to 200 Paintings by Bryan Mark Taylor 2012; introduction to Bryan Mark Taylor: Cities by the Sea 2013) *read offsite* *buy*
•Connecting the Generations through Disco: A review of David Clark’s The Death of a Disco Dancer (Irreantum 14.1 2012)
•Mormons in Comics (Mormons and Popular Culture: The Global Influence of an American Phenomenon 2012) *buy*
•Marital Matters (Antemoff Ebookery 2013)  *buy (free)*
•What if Mickey Mouse Isn’t Mormon? (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought Summer 2013) *buy*
•Our Mother Who Art in Heaven (published as an introduction to "A Mother's Day Hymn in Long Meter" in A Mantle of Stars December 2013) *buy*

•Luisa Perkins (Mormon Artist November 2013) *read offsite*
•Steven L. Peck (Mormon Artist November 2013) *read offsite*
•Denise Gasser (Mormon Artist February 2014) *read offsite*
•Seriously—Why the Hell Can't You Be More Like the Nelsons? (Sunstone Summer 2015)
•. . . then he was like, “Mind if I hang out here for a while?” (foreword to The Garden of Enid: Adventures of a Weird Mormon Girl, Part Two 2017) *buy*
•Foreword (foreword to States of Deseret 2017) *buy*
•Something Outside the Temporal (Whale Road Review Fall 2017) *link*

•Saturday's Werewolf: Vestiges of the Premortal Romance in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Novels (Sunstone West Symposium March 2009; Life, the Universe and Everything Symposium February 2010)
•Mormonism and the Arts: Mormon Fiction (Berkeley Institute of Religion December 2009)
•Funny Papers: Sunstone’s Comics Issue (Sunstone West Symposium March 2011)
•Rehabilitating Nephi Anderson, a Mormon Norwegian-American Writer Lost to Assimilation (part of the panel "Nephi Anderson, Mormonism's Norwegian-American Novelist" at the Society for the Advancement of Scandinavian Study conference May 2013) *report*
•Mormon Culture and Comic Books (Salt Lake Comic Con September 2013) *view*
•Mormonism & the Arts: Poetry (Berkeley Institute of Religion October 2013)
•Mormonism & the Arts: Fiction, literary (Berkeley Institute of Religion November 2013)
•Mormonism & the Arts: Fiction, sf/f (Berkeley Institute of Religion November 2013)
•Monsters & Mormons: Reclaiming the Peculiar (Salt Lake Comic Con Fan Xperience April 2014)
•Representations of Mormons and Utah in Comics (Salt Lake Comic Con Fan Xperience April 2014)
•Sherlock Holmes in the 21st Century (Salt Lake Comic Con Fan Xperience April 2014)
•Mormons in Comics (San Diego Comic-Con International July 2016)
•Dove Song: Heavenly Mother in Mormon Poetry (Bay Area Mormon Studies Council May 2018)

•Fuzzy Vision, Straight Aim (The Looking Glass 1994)
•Balaam's Sin (The Fob Bible 2009) *buy*

•President-elect (Association for Mormon Letters August 2016 – 2018)
•President (Association for Mormon Letters March 2018 – 2020)

Peculiar Pages
•The Fob Bible (primary editor) *buy*
•Out of the Mount: 19 from New Play Project (publisher only) *buy*
•Fire in the Pasture: Twenty-first Century Mormon Poets (initiator) *buy*
•Monsters & Mormons (co-editor) *buy*
•Dorian: A Peculiar Edition with Annotated Text & Scholarship (editor) *buy*
States of Deseret (publisher) *buy*
Dove Song: Heavenly Mother in Mormon Poetry (publisher) *buy*